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Toothpick

Last blog I talked about narrowing my story down from 88,000 words into a 1-2 page synopsis. This week, I’m going smaller.

Today I’m participating in #PitMad. For those unfamiliar, #PitMad is a Twitter pitch contest run by Brenda Drake, the queen of contests. (I don’t know if she actually has a crown, but really she should.)  All day today writers are invited to pitch their finished manuscripts on Twitter. Agents will watch the feed and favorite any works they’re interested in reading, inviting writers to submit their queries or pages. It’s simple “contest.” (I use quotes because there is really no winner to this contest, unless you count the prize of landing an agent a win. And I do!) All you have to do is include the #PitMad and genre hashtags (#YA for me) and tweet your pitch.

‘Hey, that sounds pretty easy,’ you say.

Wrong.

If narrowing down your story into a synopsis is hard, try doing it in 140 characters. No, make that 130 since the hashtags take up a precious 10 spaces.  It’s like whittling that giant oak tree in the back yard down to a toothpick. But it can be done! All it takes is knowing the core conflict of your story. What is the one thing you answer when someone asks, “So, what’s your story about?”

I spent a lot of time yesterday (and today) trying to perfect my Twitter pitch.  Silently cursing myself for basing my story on Frankenstein, an eleven character title, and for picking a twelve character concept, regeneration.  (Why, oh why, didn’t I base my story on ET? Only 2 characters!)

I’ve come up with five versions of my pitch to use today. One of them has already been successful garnering agents’ attention. I will submit my query and go from there.  It’s exciting to see social media being used in this way – for good, not evil!  It’s also exciting to read about other works as well.  Some of the tweets I’ve read today I am sure will end up in print. Even if I don’t find the right agent for my story today, I am glad I participated in this “contest.” Examining and fine-tuning my manuscript only makes it stronger, makes me a better writer, and makes me feel like a winner already.

I’ll be tweeting ya!

Follow me on Twitter  – https://twitter.com/EmCeeCollins

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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Synopsis

I have some confessions to make.

First of all, I am an unashamed fan of Keanu Reeves.  Sure, you make look at me with sneers and condescension, but I won’t take it back. I think he’s a great and versatile actor and not one performance that I’ve seen of his has disappointed me.  So there it is. Mock me if you must.

Don’t worry, this will all make sense. I’m a professional.

Secondly, I confess I’ve recently discovered that while I managed to get a pretty good grip on writing the query letter, my synopsis writing skills may need some help. When I began my search for an agent, I discovered that many of the agents on my wish list require a synopsis up front.  I had produced one in September for a retreat, so I polished that version up and sent it out to one of the agents whom I’m querying.

Now that I’ve decided to attend the Arkansas SCBWI conference in May, I’ll need the synopsis again. Rereading my previous attempt at a synopsis caused me to yawn. The writing is alright, the facts are there, but it was just…boring.  It felt most non-triumphant.

In an attempt to polish my synopsis, (and so I won’t be sent to military school in Alaska,) I found a helpful resource – Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest. Listen to this dude, he knows what he’s talking about.  He’s written synopses for many well-known movies. One of them for “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” one of my all-time favorite movies.  AKA, the funniest comedy in the history of history.

I have witnessed many things, but none so bodacious as what happened when I read that synopsis.  Suddenly I got it.  (Air guitar!)

Whittling down my story into 1-2 pages was about as easy as stuffing ten historical figures inside a phone booth parked outside a Circle K. I had been getting stuck deciding which things were important enough to include in the synopsis and which things can be left out. Rufus  Mr. Sambuchino cleared up the confusion by giving concrete examples. His advice, think about how you would explain your story to a 12 year old child.  Leave out the unimportant details and clutter and get to the main part of your story.

It was hard to cut out some of my favorite characters and subplots in the synopsis, but in the end, my synopsis reads more like a most excellent adventure instead of the dry history report that it was.

So thanks Mr. Sambuchino, dude. You’ve been a most excellent barbarian.

Until another Tuesday, Be excellent to each other!  

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/synopsis-writing

(Bill & Ted references in italics) 

Agent Buffet

Yesterday was another fabulous winter weather day for me. Meaning –  the day job was closed so I got to spend the entire day writing.

Only, I didn’t write one single word. I shopped online.

I’m not talking about browsing for shoes, deciding what to read next or hunting down kitschy Sci-Fi t-shirts. (Although that does sound like fun now that I think about it.)  I spent a good portion of my weekend and my Monday morning researching literary agents.

I’ve polished my manuscript as much as I can, so it’s time for me to find an agent who wants to partner with me to sell my work to a publisher. It’s not as easy as that one sentence can make it sound.  I sat down at the laptop with my SCBWI Publishing Guide, my spreadsheet at the ready, QueryTracker.com opened and loaded, and I kind of had this “now what” moment.

It turns out that finding an agent isn’t as easy as clicking a few links.  In fact, finding for an agent is much like going to the longest all-you-can-eat buffet you can find on an empty stomach.  The choices are mouth-watering and endless. You just have to decide what you’re hungry for.

Do you really want the fried chicken –  the seasoned vet who requires exclusive queries and only replies when she requests pages? Or are you hungrier for the spicy shrimp of an agent with a smaller client list who responds within a week?

Authors have to be careful –  choose the wrong dish and you could wind up with a case of rejection indigestion.

I did my research. I used QueryTracker and Publisher’s Marketplace. I read blogs and twitter feeds. I considered other writer’s comments and opinions, looked at notes from meetings and conferences.  I used almost every color highlight that Excel has to organize my choices into one big tasty menu spreadsheet.

Next I worked to hone my query to the individual agents on my list. I even found a few tweaks to make in the query based on agent wish lists. It took some time, but in the end, I believe it will pay off. My top choice agent – the prime rib of the bunch – may end up passing on my manuscript, but at least I know I’ve sent her my best effort tailored specifically to her.  And now I have a list, a smorgasbord if you will, of other agents I can query if she passes.

The author/agent relationship is vitally important in the publishing world.  Each author has to find the agent that will be as excited about the manuscript as they are. Each agent has to find the authors that will commit professionally to make the manuscript as polished and professional as it can be.  I believe there is someone out there that will be perfect for me and vice versa.  Working together on a manuscript we both are excited about will produce a delicious combo. You might say that I’m “Mac” looking for my “Cheese.”